I know I teased this lens out in a couple of Instagram posts before this video went out, but I was trying to hold off posting until I had a definitive answer on the focus issue that you can see in the video. This is something I’ve had with every Sigma ART lens in backlit situations and Sigma nor Sony have yet decided who is at fault. However, at the time of the videos release, there wasn’t a vertdict in but it was looking (currently) like it was the camera body & AF system causing us issues.
I’ll update this line here if anything changes – the focus issue is currently of an unknown origin.
To watch the video version of this post, simply head here:
Let’s get stuck into this…
I’ve split the video out into Wins and In The Bins because here in Yorkshire, if something is rubbish, it needs to go in the bin. (eg, “That curry was awful, definitely in the bin.”) The split will continue here:
WINS – What the Sigma 20mm 1.4 ART does well:
1 – Distortion Control
The Sigma 20mm 1.4 ART is, in my opinion, really quite impressive in its handling of distortion. Compared to my 24-70mm 2.8, the distortion on the lenses at similar focal lengths is really quite different, with the 20mm showing less distortion than the 24mm of the 24-70.
I’m not saying that there is no distortion, not at all, but the correction when applied to the lens in RAW processors, such as Lightroom, is quite minimal. The main bulk of the correction is the removal of heavy vignetting which, in my opinion, is a little too much. I found myself turning off lens corrections completely because the vignette adds to the perspective this lens delivers.
The distortion control is a win from me.
2 – Focus Speed & Accuracy
If you’ve watched the review video you’ll have seen clips like this:
Not good, right?! This hunting back and forth I personally don’t believe is the lens. Why? Because the same response to backlight and any subject, even a white caucasian male, has the exact same result. The hunting, the percieved focus grab and then ultimately, the soft images. With a hit rate of less than 20%, across a variety of lenses, the only conclusion I’ve come to so far is either that this is a body specific issue (I have a broken camera) OR the camera model fails in this shooting scenario. The latter is something I’ve put to the community, they have tested it and have an 80% success rate. We will hold for Sony’s verdict.
Therefore, I think that this lens is great on its focus ability. When not testing the possible body issue, the focus was fast, accurate and sharp as a button.
Straying from the centre, the sharpness is affected by pincushion distortion but really the detail doesn’t waver. Again, a win for a wide-angle!
Focus is, for me, a 10/10.
3 – Depth of Field – it’s a 1.4 wide angle!
Aaaah a 1.4 wide angle. Dreamy. Before this lens, I’ve had 10-20mm zoom wide angles and none of them made me excited when looking at the shots afterwards. This one does. That’s largely down to the fact that it retails beautifully shallow depth of field, thanks to the 1.4 aperture.
The depth of field is pretty equal for its fall off, front and back, which is really nice to work with. Paired with a fast camera and super high resolution sensor, I expected a bit more of an issue but it’s worked so well.
4 – Bokeh Quality
Wide-open, the lens performs really well with awesome bokeh for headshots and close-ups. Because of the usual focal length compression (or lack thereof), you’ll lose bokeh quickly the further the subject is from the lens. For when you want it, and know-how to get it, it’s beautiful.
It’s nearly perfectly circular, and without halos. I like it a lot.
5 – Indoor Performance / Versatility
I haven’t taken this lens for a true spin indoors, for a paid shoot, but for I have seen of it, it’s a great indoor lens for those with instagram accounts for holiday content and what not.
The perspective it brings really lets you feel part of the subjects life. Even if the subject is an inanimate object, like a plant, or a camera.
IN THE BINS – What it has working against it:
1 – Size
I mean, it’s not a tiny piece of kit, so if space or weight is a big deal for you, you might want to triple check that this will suit you well. It’s not small, it’s quite weighty and it will take up some bag space. It’s pretty much the same size as the Sigma ART 85mm 1.4 DG HSM, or the 24-70 2.8 Sony GM lens. If you have either of those, you’ll have an idea of the size.
For me, I’m really not bothered about lens size, weight or space requirements because I care more about the IQ and resulting images. But I’m not everyone and I know we all do not have the same opinions, so read into this as you will.
2 – Rounded Front Element
If you frequently use filters for landscape or commercial work (ND’s or polarisers), you can count this lens out of the running.
You have a 0% chance of putting a filter on this lens thanks to it’s bulging front element. Understandably, Sigma had to sacrifice something to allow for full-frame wide-angle shooting without awful round vignetting, and this was that.
3 – Minimum Focussing Distance
I know it’s not bad, really I do, but man I just want to get an inch or two closer on the details. I think this might just be me, so I don’t think it’s a game changer for the lens at all, but I just wanted to be more up close and personal than I was.
You can get to 27cm from the sensor with this lens and that’s usually plenty close. But you may find it wanting. If you NEED to get close, the Sony 20mm 1.8 gives you a ridiculous minimum distance to play with, at the sacrifice of that 0.4 in aperture.
4 – Fringing
Relatively normal and common in lenses at such wide apertures, I did see a few fringey bits in the test shoot. I wouldn’t discount this lens because of them, they weren’t horrific. I’ve seen a lot worse and it would not stop me from working with this lens for award or commercial work.
You might care more than me, so it was worth mentioning!
Is it a win or is it in the bin?
For me, it’s still a win.
The negative points of this lens don’t outweigh the positives and I think it’s an awesome and versatile lens. Partly because it’s great for video, but also because of it’s “feel” in still imagery, I think it’ll be a staple in the camera bag for years to come.
I think we’ll probably have a lot of fun with this lens with children, off camera flash outdoor portraits and urban pet photography. It just nails those shots!
Do you have this lens? If so, what do you think?!
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